Migraine Trigger Foods: What Are They?
Foods that Cause Migraines are those that cause or contribute to your headache. These foods include alcohol, caffeine, tobacco products (including marijuana), sugar, salt, chocolate and many others. You may have heard of food allergies causing migraines. However, there is no evidence that these foods do so. Allergies are very common and they’re not responsible for triggering headaches either!
What Causes Migraine Headaches?
The exact causes of migraines are still unknown. There’s no doubt that stress plays a role in migraine attacks. Stress can lead to anxiety, which then leads to increased blood pressure and heart rate. This combination can result in headaches. Other possible factors include genetics, hormones, brain chemistry and other medical conditions like depression or high cholesterol levels.
In general, the more stress you experience, the more likely it is that you’ll develop migraines. For example, if you’ve ever had a panic attack or experienced another stressful event such as losing a job or getting divorced, chances are your risk of developing migraines increases significantly.
Studies show that women with higher levels of stress hormones tend to get migraines more often than men do.
Migraines and Food
Many foods have been said to cause migraines. Some of the most common ones are categorized below:
Salty foods (including canned soups or beans)
Chocolate (even dark)
Alcohol (especially red wine)
Dairy products (cheese, milk, etc.
Meats (processed, smoked or pickled meats)
Oranges and other citrus fruits
Other foods that are bad for your health can also trigger migraines. Fast food, for example, is loaded with trans fats, which have been shown to cause increased levels of inflammation throughout the body.
That inflammation can lead to migraines. It’s definitely a good idea to avoid fast food if you suffer from these types of headaches.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news if you like to eat! There are many foods that prevent or even cure migraines.
If you suffer from these types of headaches, you should definitely eat the following foods:
Lettuce (especially bok choy or romaine)
Beans (especially baked)
Nuts (especially almonds)
Whole grains (brown rice and whole grain bread)
Yogurt (especially with active cultures)
Vitamin D is believed to prevent migraines. Taking supplements or eating foods rich in it can help prevent or cure them.
Vitamin B2 plays an important role in the prevention of these headaches. It’s recommended that you eat foods rich in this nutrient or take supplements to reduce the number of migraine attacks you experience.
Magnesium is another nutrient that helps prevent migraine headaches. If you don’t get enough of this mineral, you’re more likely to suffer from these types of headaches.
Foods that contain magnesium include pumpkin seeds and salmon.
Finally, water is important for many bodily functions, one of which is flushing toxins from your body. If you don’t drink enough water, your body can’t eliminate toxins and this can lead to more headaches.
If you want to prevent or cure your migraines, make sure you eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. A good rule is to fill half your plate with vegetables every time you eat.
You should also drink water before, during and after meals to keep yourself well hydrated.
For further information on which foods are good for your health, consult your doctor or a nutritionist. They can give you personalized advice depending on your unique dietary needs.
Here is a guide that shows how some people describe their pain. Please pick the description that applies to you:
I get a throbbing pain on one side of my head, usually on the sides or back.
I get an intense pain that feels like pressure on both sides of my head.
I get a pain that feels like an electric shock running through my skull.
The pain moves around my head before settling in one spot.
The pain is dull and throbbing. It never moves around and it feels like it’s inside my brain.
Do you have any of these risk factors?
Please select all that apply.
High blood pressure
Lack of exercise
Family history of migraines (i.e.
if one or both of your parents get them)
If you have several risk factors, there’s a good chance you’ll get migraines or headaches. To reduce the chances of getting these conditions, make sure to see your doctor on a regular basis and improve any of the risk factors you can.
Are you stressed out? Do you find yourself in stressful situations on a regular basis?
These are common triggers for migraine and headache sufferers. To prevent or reduce the number of attacks you get, try to eliminate stress from your life as much as possible.
Do you spend most of your day looking at a computer screen?
Many people complain about getting headaches or migraines after spending long periods looking at a computer screen. If this describes you, it might be because you need to change your focus from close up (computer screen) to something farther away (like a window) every 20 minutes or so.
Do you watch a lot of TV?
Watching TV is often another activity that leads to headaches or migraines in some people.
Glare from the light of the TV, which can cause eye strain. To prevent this, turn the TV so the glare is gone and the light source isn’t in your eyes. You can also buy special anti-glare filters to put over your TV. And remember, if you’re watching TV in a brightly lit room, close the curtains or turn on some lights to make the room darker.
Have you been getting more headaches lately?
Maybe you need new glasses.
Did you know that your eyes change as you get older? Did you also know that the lenses in your glasses need to be changed every 1 to 2 years as your eyes change?
Even if you don’t need prescription lenses anymore, you might need to make smaller changes to the way your lenses are made. This is because the indexes of plastic that go into lens making change over time, and this can make a difference in the way your lenses work. If you think this might be the problem, ask your optometrist for new glasses.
Do you wake up with a headache or migraine?
It could be a problem with the way your bed is. You spend a lot of your life in it, which means if there’s something wrong with it, you’ll be suffering for a long time. Example problems include uneven legs, poor pillow, mattress problem, or even a noisy room. You might also want to consider buying a bed with adjustable frames and other modern features, like a massage option.
Are you hungry? Do you find that snacks make your headaches go away?
You might have low blood sugar, which can cause headaches. Try eating a healthy snack, like some fruit or a handful of raisins, before your headache gets too bad. If this is a problem for you, try talking to your doctor about it. They can test your blood and let you know if you have low blood sugar and what the cause might be.
Do you have allergies?
Allergies can cause all sorts of problems, including headaches. If you think you might have allergies, try keeping an allergy medicine on hand in case of an attack. You can also try asking your doctor for an anti-histamine. These medicines can help fight the effects of the allergy and keep your symptoms under control.
Have you been stressed out lately?
We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. Stress can sometimes cause headaches or migraines, especially in teenagers. If you think this might be the problem, try to find time for yourself every day. Set aside an hour to do whatever you want to do. It can be anything; read a book, go online, or just lie in bed and do nothing. Relaxation is the best thing for stress, so try to do it every day.
If you sit at a desk all day and then have to drive home, you might start to get a headache. The reason is that you’re not moving and your muscles are tightening up.
You might want to try taking a walk at lunch or getting off the bus a stop early to walk home. You’ll feel better when you get home.
Do you have a bright screen in direct view?
This includes things like cell phones, tablets, computer screens, and TV screens. You might want to try changing their position. You could also buy anti-glare screen protectors for your devices or invest in an anti-glare laptop screen.
Having a bad smell in your room could be causing your headaches.
Is there a garbage bin that needs to be taken out? What about pet waste?
If there’s a bad smell anywhere in your room, try to get rid of it as soon as you can.
Do you get headaches when you eat certain foods?
If so, you might have food allergies or a stomach problem. Try keeping a food diary for a week and see if there are any patterns. If you think you know what food is causing the problem, try to eliminate it from your diet for a few weeks and see if your headaches go away.
If you have frequent headaches, try cutting down on the amount of caffeine you take in each day. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it makes you have to pee more often.
This can cause dehydration, which can lead to a headache.
Do you feel better in the morning and worse as the day goes on?
If so, you might have sleep apnea, a condition in which you stop breathing while sleeping. This can cause you to wake up frequently at night, which can cause headaches. Talk to your doctor about this if you think it might be a problem.
You may be experiencing retinal tears or breaks without even realizing it if you have headaches that are made worse by reading. This is commonly experienced by people who spend a lot of time on the computer or smartphone, but don’t forget books!
If you experience eye pain or pressure that becomes a headache after reading or in dim lighting, see an eye doctor immediately.
Do you get headaches when you’re under stress?
If so, try doing a relaxation exercise when the headache begins. Close your eyes and picture yourself in a peaceful place. This could be somewhere you’ve been before like the beach or mountains, or it could be a fantasy location that you create yourself. Find a spot where you’re comfortable and safe.
Sources & references used in this article:
Food as trigger and aggravating factor of migraine by C Finocchi, G Sivori – Neurological Sciences, 2012 – Springer
Diet restriction in migraine, based on IgG against foods: a clinical double-blind, randomised, cross-over trial by K Alpay, M Ertaş, EK Orhan, DK Üstay… – …, 2010 – journals.sagepub.com
Foods and supplements in the management of migraine headaches by C Sun-Edelstein, A Mauskop – The Clinical journal of pain, 2009 – journals.lww.com
Food and headache attacks. A comparison of patients with migraine and tension-type headache. by L Savi, I Rainero, W Valfre, S Gentile, L Giudice… – Panminerva …, 2002 – europepmc.org
Trigger factors in migraine: a study conducted by the Belgian Migraine Society by VV Bergh, WK Amery… – Headache: The Journal of …, 1987 – Wiley Online Library
Migraine and pregnancy. by KM Welch – Advances in neurology, 1994 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov